I’ve been breathing a lot recently.
Okay, okay, I know: you have too.
But not just breathing; ✨breathing✨
See the difference?
Well, if you’ve been to a birthing class, you’ve probably heard a lot about the second kind of breathing.
The first kind is more of a brainless task that we use most of our day-to-day existence (that’s a good thing!), but there is so much we can do to harness our breath to make huge changes in our lives.
For starters: birth: Breath is the key to a calm, empowered and even (yes, I’m totally serious) painless labor.
But once the baby’s out, the real labor comes: the sweat and tears, laughter and hugs, the nights and days and nights and days and nights and days that roll into one another, the toothless grins and missing teeth and broken teeth and braces and beyond.
So even once you’re out of what the rest of the world calls “labor”, there is so, so much you can use your breath for.
Keeping your cool
Did anyone ever tell you as a kid to take 10 deep breaths to calm down?
I remember hearing it years and years ago and thinking it was a rather foolish bit of advice – how’s breathing going to help me calm down?
I don’t remember if I tried it or not then, but trust me on this one: breathing will help you calm down.
Whether you’re sleep deprived, have a lot on your plate, or are just attempting to juggle a few needy kids/household chores/etc. at once, we all have times in our days that we feel like we’re just going to lose it.
So when you’re there, and it’s a situation you can’t simply walk away from, try taking 10 breaths.
But not just any 10 breaths; try this:
First, close your eyes. Then, breathe.
When you breathe in, feel your ribcage expand, moving out forwards, backwards and to the sides. Then allow your belly to get larger as you allow your diaphragm to move downwards to make room for even more air.
Do this slowly, counting for 3-4 slow counts.
Then, once you’ve inhaled as much as you can, start blowing out, gently allowing all of that air to leave your lungs. Imagine you need to blow out a cake full of birthday candles, and let the air come out slowly, counting to 6-8 before you’ve released it all.
Allowing your exhale to be about double the length of the inhale will physically calm your body down, which will help calm your brain down too.
Repeat 10 times.
(And, as an aside: it can be super helpful to do this multiple times a day, even when you’re not about to lose it. Calming your body down is never a bad thing. ?)
For your kids
Self-soothing is a skill. It’s one we’re all capable of mastering (well, from about 3 months of age, anyhow), but one that needs some time, energy and, in some situations, a bit of maturity, to build.
Your child may be one of those who reacts more strongly to uncomfortable situations (and sometimes being told ‘no’ is included in an uncomfortable situation!)
Or maybe she’s generally a calm, easygoing kid, but is going through a rough patch right now.
Either way, helping our children learn to calm down with their breath is a life-long skill that will always do them well. Instead of the well-meaning advice I was given as a child, though, it’s more likely to actually be helpful if you approach it from a slightly different angle.
1: Model it. When you’re in an uncomfortable or difficult situation, or feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, before you start your deep breathing, verbalize it. Tell your child that you’re feeling [whatever you’re feeling] so you’re going to take some deep breaths to help yourself calm down so you can [do whatever you need to be doing]. Let your children see that this is something that you use to help you through difficult situations as well – not just something that you toss at them that may or may not actually work.
2: Walk him through it. Even if your child too young to understand how to breathe deeply and slowly, sit him down on a chair, and sit or squat opposite him so you’re at eye level. Walk him through those 10 deep breaths, prompting him to “breathe in” (and then show him what that sounds and looks like), and “breathe out” (again, doing it with him).
You can start this with children as young as 2.5, though they may not quite get the hang of it yet till they’re a little older.
The first step to falling asleep easily is, of course, having a good bedtime routine. And, like any good bedtime routine, it should be brainless. So if yours is, that’s great!
But you may find that, since you’re not thinking about your routine (or if you don’t have a routine yet at all), you find it hard to settle down once you’re actually in bed.
So if you’ve got a lot going on and a barrage of thoughts going around your brain, or if you feel yourself tensing up when you get into bed, or if you just. can’t. get. comfortable. try focusing on your breathing.
Once the lights are off, allow your eyes to close, and start breathing deeply. Focus on your breath for a bit, then allow your mind to wander, and then bring your focus back to your breath. Notice how the breath feels, notice your body relaxing and allow yourself to just relax – without feeling like you “have” to fall asleep.
Where do you harness breath in your life?